Sumit Singh and Tikam Shekhawat
Pune, 27th January 2024: The Pune Union of Working Journalists (PUWJ) and Maharashtra State Marathi Patrakar Sangh have submitted letters to the Commissioner of Police, Pune City, Retesh Kumaarr, demanding swift action against police personnel involved in the incident of misbehavior with journalists during the Mahavikas Aghadi protest on January 26 in Ashanagar locality, Gokhalenagar.
Pudhari News Channel Reporter Dyaneshwar Choutamal and cameraman Nikhil Karandikar, covering the protest, faced obstruction from the police on guard. Authorities prohibited them from shooting video footage and covering the news, insisting on the need for permission from superiors. When the journalists questioned this restriction, they were threatened with legal action. Tensions escalated as the senior police inspector Balaji Pandhare, in-charge of Chatushrungi police station, forcibly confiscated their video camera and seized the memory cards. The cameraman was allegedly forced into a police van, and reporter Dnyaneshwar Choutamal was physically dragged away after his microphone was seized.
PUWJ strongly condemned the incident, labeling it an attack on the freedom of the media, a fundamental pillar of democracy. The union questioned the necessity of police permission for covering a protest and highlighted the abuse of authority that obstructs journalists’ work.
In their letter to the Commissioner of Police, PUWJ presented a set of demands:
1. Immediate and strict action against the guilty police personnel and officials involved in the incident.
2. Furnishing PUWJ with an action taken report against the individuals responsible.
3. Compensation for any damages to the property of Pudhari News Channel during the incident.
4. Implementation of preventive measures by Pune Police to avoid such incidents in the future.
5. Ensuring that police on duty are well-informed about the functioning and independence of the media, with appropriate action taken.
The letter, signed by PUWJ president Pandurang Sandbhor and secretary general Sukrut Mokashi, emphasized the cooperative relationship between police and journalists for the welfare of society. It expressed concern about certain elements within the police force causing conflicts between the two, endangering law and order and democratic values.
The PUWJ requested the Commissioner of Police to take immediate action on the matter and assured that the association, being the largest and oldest of its kind, hopes to resolve the issue without resorting to other legal means.
Pune Police Commissioner Retesh Kumaarr has described this as an unfortunate incident. He apologized to the journalists’ unions and has assured that this will not happen again. He stated that he is taking proactive steps to train all the police stations in soft skills within a month and a half. He suggested that journalists participate in the soft skills training initiative.
Many senior journalists including Arun Mehetre, Mandar Gonjari, Prashant Aher, Mangesh Phalle, Digambar Darade, Chandan Haygunde, Laxman More, Gunwanti Paraste, Chandrashekhar Bhange, Vaibhav Sonawane, Gaurav Kadam, Micky Ghai and Ashok Morale, were present on the occasion.